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The month of May, in the year of our Lord 1535
"Effie lass, your hair is as lovely as me stallion's. And like me destrier..." The Munro leaned closer to the maid. She stepped warily backward, eyes wide, for even seated, he towered over her. "Me very sight of such a bonny filly makes me long to bree--"
"You have our thanks, Elga!" Gilmour interrupted hastily. Straightening, he drew the maid's attention to him with the full force of his renowned smile.
The Red Lion's young serving maid pulled her gaze from Innes Munro and let it fall on Gilmour. He noticed with some satisfaction that for a fraction of a second she forgot to inhale, but it was her breathy sigh that did his heart the most good.
"The meal was a rare treat," he continued and found that he was able to relax somewhat now that the Munro had ceased his horrendous attempt to be charming. "And your kind attention has been much appreciated."
"I am happy I have pleased you, me laird," she said and curtsied. She had not yet reached eight and ten years, but she knew how to flirt using nothing more than her eyes. Of course, her breasts, prettily displayed above the kindly bodice of her gown, did nothing to detract from her charms. Ahh...women.
"Shall I fetch you a bit more ale?" she asked, dimpling coquettishly.
"I am tempted, Elga," he said and knew immediately that she realized he was thinking of more than the ale, for she blushed and dimpled all the more. "But nay, I'd best not."
"More ofIssa's manchet bread?" she suggested. "Or another wedge of crowdie, perhaps?"
"Nay. Naught. I am well sated."
"Well, I am not sated atall," rumbled Innes Munro, scowling, first at Mour, then at the maid. "But I think you might be up to the task of seeing the job done if you've a mind to, lass. You've but to show me to your chamber and l'll --"
"What's that?" Gilmour rose abruptly to his feet, grasping the maid's arm as he did so. "I believe I hear your master calling."
Elga stared at him with wide, dreamy eyes. "Nay," she breathed. "Master Gibbs is not --"
"Mayhap it was the cook, then. You'd best go, wee Elga," Mour insisted and dropping his hand to hers, bent to kiss her knuckles. "'Twould wound me grievously if you came to trouble on me own account."
"Oh. I..." She floundered for words as he caressed her fingers with his thumb. "You will return?" she asked.
"I'll be back this very night if you'll promise me a tumble --" began the Munro, but Gilmour interrupted again.
"Certainly," he said. "We shall return. But you must go now."
She left with a troubled glance for Innes and a smile for Mour, but it was really the sway of her skirts that was the most intriguing.
"What the hell be you doing?" Innes rumbled, snatching Gilmour's attention from the girl with the grating of his voice. "She was just now warming up to me."
Gilmour found his seat and nodded casually to Russell Grier, Baron of Winbourne, who was nursing a horn of spirits some tables away.
The baron raised his drink. "Laird Gilmour of Evermyst," he called. "Where one can see forever and even the goat herder is bonny."
"To your health," greeted Mour and raised his ale. It would have been better if no one knew of the Munro's sojourn at the Red Lion, but rumor said Winbourne had troubles of his own to worry on, and by the looks of things, he was a goodly way intohis cups. So Gilmour turned his attention back to his giant companion. "Warming up to her," he said, keeping his tone level. "She was about to crack you on the pate with your own goblet. What the devil did you think you were about?"
The Munro's heavy brow lowered dangerously. "I was wooing her, I was."
"Wooing! If you were wooing, I was birthing --" Gilmour began, but in that instant he noticed the other man's right hand. It was as big as a battering ram and wrapped rather suggestively about a short bladed dagger. Raising his brows, Gilmour tilted a slow grin from the knife to the bearer. "In truth," he said, nodding thoughtfully, "I've seen worse attempts." Though the chieftain of the notorious Munros couldn't flirt worth sparrow droppings, he was the devil himself when it came to knife play. "Still, if I am to help you I think you may need a wee bit more practice."
"I have practiced," grumbled the other.
Aye. Well, thew thins take time." The word "forever" came to mind.
"I tire of this game," said the Munro. "Playing cat to these scrawny kitchen mice."
Tire of flirting? Was it possible? Gilmour wondered, then brought his attention rapidly back to the matter at hand: Innes Munro, his lack of charm, and his knife.
"It but takes time to understand a woman's mind," Gilmour said.
Munro deepened his scowl. "And how did you learn, MacGowan?"
Mour mulled over the giant lord's question. After all, there was no need to teach an eagle to soar. "Some are simply better suited for certain tasks than others," he began diplomatically. "In truth, I'm not particularly gifted at..." But now that he thought about it, he couldn't name a single task he wasn't particularly gifted at. He smiled at that realization and began to announce his findings, but at that second Munro shifted his knife with suggestive malevolence.
"How are you at dying?" he rumbled and Gilmour laughed out loud.
Time with the Munro had its merry moments after all.
"Easy now, Innes." he said. "How would it look if you attempted to kill me right here in the Red Lion?"
"Attempted?" Munro's...The MacGowan Betrothal. Copyright � by Lois Greiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.